I went to school in a predominately black area of south-central Los Angeles. The minority kids — white, Latino, Asian — actually were treated quite well. On the sports teams, we had a great time making jokes and good-natured “insults” about our ethnic differences. Then I went to college…and everything changed.
Q. “How many feminists does it take to change a lightbulb?”
A. “That’s not funny!!”
Political Correctness had set in, and humor had to walk on eggs.
Lisa Lampanelli has successfully brought the entire era of political correctness to its crashing, fucked-itself end. Going after everyone in sight — blacks, whites, gays, Latinos, Asians, men, women…the deaf…the blind (not to mention herself) — her unsparing roast of her audience might be an 11 on the 10 scale of political incorrectness…or maybe a 20. And vulgarity? By the bucketful.
Using a simple measure to judge the ability of a comedian — LAUGHTER — Lisa Lampanelli is one of the most brilliant comics on stage today. Certainly the most original.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Lampanelli before the debut of her upcoming HBO special: Lisa Lampanelli: Long Live the Queen.
Richard Elfman: You’ve got some balls of steel, Lisa. As an “insult comic,” what’s the most extreme reaction you’ve gotten from an audience member?
LL: Well, I’m pretty lucky because I didn’t start comedy until I was 30, so already I had a personality and my own voice, so I did a lot of experimenting to see what I could get away with. Most of the time, it was just like, okay, I’m gonna try this; I know what my intention is behind it, so if somebody gets mad, it’s really not my problem. For the type of act I do, I’ve gotten just a handful of problems…maybe I can count on one hand people that were really pissed off. I remember a couple months ago somebody got mad at me because I made fun of Sarah Palin, which had nothing to do with my comedy –- it had to do with that she liked this crazy bitch from Alaska. What am I supposed to do? It’s not really even the comedy that pisses people off; it’s just whatever you happen to have as a view. So I’ve pretty much escaped unscathed, but that could be also because I have my assistant confiscate all my hate-mail, so maybe I’m in a deluded world to think that people are all in love with me.
RE: Apparently a group of deaf people picketed you recently. Have any other politically correct groups, or people in the press, come after you or condemned you?
LL: Well no — that’s what pisses me off, because there’s no controversy. I want controversy so that I can get more famous. Like I said, I always wanted to have a protest, and then they were deaf people who were tough to understand, so that really blows. And then I won the deaf people over because they came to see the show and went, “Oh, we understand. You make fun of everybody.” They thought I was singling them out when I say deaf people are fucking retarded, and they couldn’t understand what I was saying, so fuck ‘em. Hey, they’re not going to be my target audience for selling CDs, so they have to just lick it. I just can’t believe people would take comedy as a serious thing. I’m not a Senator. I’m a freakin’ comedian. Can I just do my job, you cunts?
RE: Are you very different off stage than on stage?
LL: Oh yeah, I’m talking to you kind of serious, but of course I get funny sometimes if I want to. Like right now, I’m about to go into a Friars’ Club. I’ll probably say, “Hey you dirty Jew,” to about every member because they’re all dirty Jews, but if you’re not in the Friars’ Club setting where it’s all comedians or people who love comedy…you’re not gonna go into a McDonalds or a health spa. I’m not gonna go, “Hey cunts, what’s happenin’?”…until I get to know ‘em a little better. I would never yell racial shit at all because it isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. Pretty much 10% of my personality is my onstage stuff, and 90% is the boring whore that I am.
RE: I grew up in mostly black Crenshaw. I’m tall, tough, althletic; I found the young neighborhood ladies seemed to like my red hair and blue eyes — an affection that I returned. So what’s your thing with black guys? (As you often give that a major mention in your act.)
LL: Honestly, it started out…I just had not been around black guys in Connecticut. I’m 47 years old, and back then, we didn’t really mix that much at the Catholic school. So there were legitimately three black people at our whole school, and they were included to play basketball. It sounds racist, but that’s just how school was. So I go to school, I meet three black people, and they weren’t that cute…and I’m a chick. I’m not a dike. So the world finally opens up to me — I go to college at Syracuse University, and it’s all Jews so there’s hardly any black people there either.
RE: The same at Harvard?
LL: Exactly! Those white devils. So I moved to New York City and I look around and I’m like, holy shit — these guys are just fuckin’ hot. I mean, there’s just something about the swagger and the confidence…and also older black men, like even 50, 60 years old, look a lot younger and they just really take care of themselves. Of course, that’s a generalization, but it’s true. So I started dating a couple of guys and I had a boyfriend for three years that was a black guy, and it’s not like “once you go black, you never go back” – that’s not true because I have dated the white devil and Latinos and stuff since then, but honestly, if somebody is gonna turn my head, it’s 99% of the time the black guy. And I’ve actually even stared at black women who looked butch because I thought it was a dude. I would much rather stare at a black chick than at a white guy. Now is that racist? I don’t give a fuck. White guys aren’t complainin’ that I’m not bangin’ ‘em!
RE: Looking at your website, InsultComic.com, it seems that fame has hit and you’re now on the road all the time. How is that life?
LL: It sucks asshole. The only good part of it is that you get to play to your audience all the time. In other words, if I’m going to The Grove in Anaheim [California], 2,400 people are going to be Lisa fans. If I’m going to play at the [Radio City] Music Hall — 6,000 Lisa fans. So the show is the easy part. The show doesn’t really take any thought because I’m just going up there ranting and raving and having fun, and then translating them into a [TV] special or something, but the hard part is the media stuff. That sucks and the travel is pretty hard, but that’s the only really bad thing about it, to be honest with you. I’m lucky enough that I get to do comedy and call people “cunts,” and they laugh and then give me money. That’s weird, don’t ya think? What a huge level of self-hate, and why not? Hey, I’ll cash in on it.
RE: You’ve got an upcoming HBO special that’s going to air Saturday night –- people are very excited about it. Tell us a little bit about this and the crowd and everything…
LL: Okay, we filmed it in Santa Rosa, California, and part of this is because it’s right near San Francisco and that’s a lot of corn-holers, and you know the faggots love me. I’m sort of like their blond-headed Kathy Griffin. So I had a lot of homos there — some in tiaras and boas, which I thought was very cute. That’s achievement. Then we had a large racial mix of Philipinos, Chinese, blacks, Hispanics…but a lot of different types were there, including my main group which, believe it or not, is 18 to 34-year-old males, which is very cool — straight guys. So this was the perfect place to film it because it’s like this whole melting pot…one big potpourri of stink was pretty much there. So we did the show, and everybody jumped to their feet… I mean, when you’re doing a special, people know they’re gonna be on camera, so they just jump up, and every reaction is [caught on film] in a pause break, and it just was like the best show of my life. I can’t even believe also how well I was treated. This was the theater that Colin [former HBO prez Colin Callender] taped one of his final specials in, so it was kind of cool with HBO –- they wanted to carry on that torch kind of thing, so it really felt good because they treated me really nice at the theater. The guy who ran the theater is a homo called Rick, and he actually put rose petals in the toilet. Every time I peed, my cunt smelled like potpourri –- you would have loved it. I’m smelling it right now –- it’s vanilla.
HBO COMEDY SPECIAL: LISA LAMPANELLI: LONG LIVE THE QUEEN
Premieres Saturday, January 31st at 10:00PM ET/PT
Top photo credit: HBO/Janet Van Ham